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Can we create a High Energy Work Climate?


In this article, TrainingZONE member Wyn Llewellyn describes the concept of flow principles and its use in motivating and encouraging staff.

Almost every business conference, workshop, or seminar in recent times has begun with a context setting presentation containing these common themes.

1. Business life is getting tougher
2. The competition is getting fiercer
3. Customers are more demanding
4. Product and service excellence is now expected

The question that is usually posed at this point goes something like: “What can organisations do to develop and maintain competitive advantage in these circumstances?”. Answers commonly focus on the fact that “People are the organisation’s most important asset and hold the key to performance improvement”. Many companies have already invested in changes by Downsizing, Merging, Delayering, Re-engineering etc. And since every organisation has access to the latest technologies and the best techniques for managing financial and other resources, there is a realisation that people are the only remaining potential source of commercial advantage.

So the focus of attention now is “How to ensure we deliver the full contribution of all employees?”. Many initiatives have been focused on topics like Empowerment, Teamworking, Performance Related Pay and Self-Managing Teams. And managers have tried to develop new ways to “Motivate the Team”. Unfortunately, too often, these initiatives have missed the fundamental point. The problem is not the people; it is the way in which we ‘manage’ the people. And the context for change is wider than just internal employees, it needs to include suppliers, customers and contractors too.

Someone once said, “You cannot manage your business today using yesterdays tools and still expect to remain in front tomorrow”. What needs to change is the climate in which the organisation is managed. What that means is a change in management thinking, attitudes and behaviours. It means a change in the way key performance indicators are measured, and also in how they are interpreted and displayed. And it means changes in the roles and responsibilities of managers and others. In other words, what needs to change is the organisation culture and work climate.

A High Energy Work Climate

Fundamental to meeting the new expectations and running a ‘Winning Business’ is the development of a culture that embraces 5 principles which deliver a work climate in which there are no ‘Blockages’. If everything that is business-critical ‘flows’ freely, then there is a greater likelihood of success. The ‘flows’ apply equally to information, communication, production processes, supplies, orders, deliveries, invoices, payments, improvement ideas, knowledge, learning, and not least cash.

The 5 ‘FLOWS’ principles that prevent and reduce organisational blockages are these:

1. FOCUS: ensuring that teams have a clear understanding of business goals and direction, why they are important, and how the team’s work contributes to their achievement.

2. LEARNING: ensuring that teams and individuals take opportunities to grow and develop through training and self-development and take responsibility for sharing learning with others.

3. OPPORTUNITY: ensuring that the teams are able to contribute the full expertise and capability of every team member, and have the autonomy to do so.

4. WORTH: ensuring that teams are widely recognised for their capability and achievement, praised and thanked for their efforts and results, and appropriately rewarded for their contribution.

5. SUPPORT: ensuring that every team feels it has the resources, information and management support and commitment it needs to be able to perform at the highest level.

So the big question is:-
“How can we begin to improve climate and performance by managing ‘FLOWS’ differently?”

A practical first step is to encourage line managers to involve teams in assessing the current work climate against the 5 ‘FLOWS’ principles. This can be done using the FlowSurvey* Work Climate Survey. Involving managers and employees in defining ‘What it is like to work around here’ is a good way of starting because it is a process which begins to apply the ‘FLOWS’ principles.

 It provides a focus on what strengths exist and what improvements are needed to move forward
 Contributors learn by developing a shared view of the current situation using a common language
 Everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the process and the picture being clarified
 Involvement develops a feeling of ‘worth’ and being valued in the participants, and they see ‘worth’ in the plans being made
 This process provides the mechanism for the delivery of management support and encouragement of improvement in the work climate

If employees are to be encouraged to take responsibility for the work climate and performance then there are many implications for the role of the manager and the skills, behaviours and attitudes managers need. One of the changes will be to develop the necessary capabilities in the team so that they are able to discharge their new ‘managerial’ responsibilities of improving FLOWS. And the other change will be to stop doing those ‘managerial’ things themselves so as not to inhibit the FLOWS, and begin to operate more as a coach.

Health warning!

The methods and concepts briefly described here are all simple in principle. Please do not be fooled into thinking that they will be easy to implement. The whole approach demands a change in mindsets and attitudes towards performance from all employees, including line managers.

Successful implementation requires careful preparation of the ground, and, in particular, building commitment from senior management to supporting the new way. And that needs persistence and influencing ability. It also means taking some ‘risks’ that are currently avoided, like freedom of information for all employees, and freedom to act in changing things to secure improvement. All this freedom has to be linked with sharing of responsibility for climate and performance.

Successful climate change, though, is rewarded with significant improvement in organisation performance, motivated employees and delighted customers, and that must be worth the effort!

You can find out more about the ‘FLOWS’ approach to climate change, how it has been applied, and the associated successes from:

Wyn Llewellyn FCIPD, MIMgt,
WynMill Consulting
Tel/Fax: 01477 537729


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